Avoid another surge | Daily News

Avoid another surge

The worst fears expressed by medical experts and PHIs are about to be realized with a sudden surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in our midst when it was increasingly felt that the nightmare days were over.

In the days prior to the festive season the PHIs warned the authorities against the relaxation of health protocols like they did last year. The authorities however, perhaps, lulled into a false sense of security as a result of the highly successful vaccination drive thought differently and only made token warnings to the public to be on their guard.

What unfolded was evident to one and all. Shoppers thronged supermarkets and malls particularly in the final days before Christmas, with distance rules thrown out of the windows. Private buses started carrying their full loads while the scenario in trains was worse, with commuters spilling out of compartments as in pre-pandemic days. Offices, factories and workplaces too got down their full complement of staff despite warnings by medical experts and festive gigs such as the year-end dances and musical events were held at hotels in full violation of the rules. We were also not short of protests, led by persons who should have known better.

The result? The graph-line in the daily number of cases which stood flat at a relatively satisfactory 300 or thereabouts during the pre-festive period has today shot up to 800 plus cases, vindicating the PHIs.

The fast spreading Omicron variant has complicated matters, with hospitals including the Lady Ridgeway Hospital once again filling up with COVID patients with the demand for medical oxygen too gradually increasing, reminiscent of the worst period of the COVID days in this country.

The only silver lining, as one sees it, is the drop in the number of daily deaths, certainly attributed to the successful vaccination rollout and the administration of the booster dosage. But this alone is no guarantee that the situation will not take a turn for the worse. Deputy Director General Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath has warned the public to be vigilant by strictly observing health guidelines at a time the Omicron variant is causing havoc in Western countries. It would be only a matter of time before the latest COVID variant causes a devastating impact in this country as well.

As Dr. Herath observed, the tendency on the part of medical experts to downplay the seriousness of the Omicron variant may have lulled the public into a false sense of security, which is fraught with danger. While those affected with Omicron has been estimated at 50 per cent of the total infected, one should also keep in mind that the other 50 per cent constitutes those affected by the more serious Delta variant. The reluctance on the part of most particularly the youth to submit themselves for the booster dose too may have contributed to the virus surge.

The authorities must get their act together and plug all the loopholes leading to the virus spread. On Tuesday TV showed the Police halting all private buses to check whether they were carrying passengers above the seating capacity. This column has been repeatedly highlighting this aspect, calling on the authorities to rein in the situation. At least even at this late stage it is a matter for gratification that the Police have decided to act firmly.

It is a matter of regret that at a time when it was thought that the COVID nightmare was overcome we see the numbers climbing up again, due to the sheer irresponsibility and disdain of the public.

What is of serious concern is the large number of schoolchildren reportedly falling victim to the virus at a time when school activity had started functioning at its normal pace, with the Year Five Scholarship Exam too just having concluded.

The total reopening of the country and the sudden onrush of people to Government offices too from November 1 may have resulted in the rise in infections. The authorities need to act fast to stem the tide, if we are to avoid another major outbreak necessitating further lockdowns, that, this time around would deal a mortal blow to the economy.

The December target for the realization of grim predictions by medical experts was eminently justified when witnessing the people’s behaviour following the total easing of restrictions. With all restrictions removed, there was increased traffic coming into and leaving the cities that too may have aggravated the situation. In fact this is exactly what happened during the holiday season.

Are the authorities going to permit free movement when the risk is staring in the face? The situation appears to be grim when considering that vaccines are believed to lose their potency just six months later. This is why those shying away from the booster dosage should be compelled to get jabbed. For they are the biggest risk posed to the community at large.

One should not lose sight of the fact that countries which counted themselves safe after the full vaccination of their populations are today back to square one. Hence, we have to take all necessary precautions.

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